Peras fritas (fried pears, that's a Dutch metaphor)
Dzzjjj-zzjjj-zzjjjj-zjjjunggggg… Oh no. Not “dzzjjung”, is it? Not now. I silence the “it’s-your-own–fault-told-you-so” moaning voice in my head while I try all possible combinations of choke, gear and gas until I can’t remember anymore which ones I tried. Now I flooded the engine for sure. In the meantime I’m talking to my dear friend who I have left standing there workless with it’s front wheel against the curb for a few weeks now, and I beg him to please keep grumbling this time when the starter keeps quiet. I promise that this week we’ll drive a few hours every day. Yes: I’ve planned to leave Cádiz tomorrow to go back to Holland for a little while. By bike. Or, well… Dzzjj-zzjjjungg. With my parents and my brother Koen, who had driven three thousand kilometers to come and pick me up with all my stuff, and who had to have left their apartment tomorrow at ten in the morning. Please? Dzzjjjjungggg… my motorcycle protests heavily, hungry for revenge. It produces a few more dzzjjjj-zzjjj-zzjj’s and then the battery is dead. In Dutch, we have this metaphor saying “someone’s stuck with the fried pears” meaning trouble. I wonder what fried pears would be in Spanish. Peras fritas I guess. Olé.
Now I must say that my parents are used to a lot. On my way to Spain I had to pass by the city hall to pick up my passport: just in time (oooh, does it take ten days?). I often stay unexpectedly at someone’s place for a meal or to spend the night, because I mixed up timetables, because I didn’t check the weather forecast, or because I just forget the time. I go shopping or getting gas without money on me and I get lost wherever and whenever I can, but certainly when someone says: “you can’t miss that.” Not on purpose.
In my very first week in Leuven I let someone steal my bag at the swimming pool, at ten o’clock at night, with besides all of my clothes in it, of course, also the only key to my house. So I had to spend the night in a borrowed outfit at a spare bed of a very new acquaintance. I get to work two hours late by bus because I couldn’t find my motorcycle keys; I find them later at an unusual place at home, where I had held them when I decided to go doing something else. Not on purpose. On a holiday in Lisbon I ended up in a flat of an elderly couple because all the hostels turned out to be complete when I arrived, and I asked the trustworthy looking man walking down the street if he had a spare bed somewhere, in a desperate attempt not to end up sleeping at the beach. He had to ring his wife about that first.
So, my parents got to get used to “me” for as far as that’s possible, but they’ll never really get used to it, I know that too. I’m very sure anyway that I didn’t get my recessive worrying-genes from either of them. So when I tell them that the battery must be recharged in a garage and that it will take at least twelve hours, my feeling of guilt is taking so much space that it hardly fits into my little room. Tomorrow morning it will be charged, and then my bike will start without a problem, I assure them, because except for the battery there’s nothing wrong with it… It’s just been standing still for too long. That’s all. Sorry.
Dzzjjj-zzjjj-zzjjjj-zjjjunggggg… The next morning at about ten. The battery's working again, but besides that, there’s not much life to be detected in the engine at all. After ten minutes of intensive starting attempts, the familiar sound of a refusing mechanism is getting weak again, and we decide to give it a try to push it and start at the same time. While Koen and dad are running behind me, pushing my motorcycle with me on it through the streets of Cádiz, I pretend not to see the amused looks of the people passing by, while I push the start-button a little bit more despairing everytime. Nada. Disappointed we park the motorcycle at it’s place near the front door again. We’ll have to take it to the garage then. Luckily, that’s only two streets away, that isn’t really far to push, now is it? Positive thinking. In the mean time it’s over 30 degrees and the battery is almost dead again.
Tuesday, says the guy at the garage. It’s thursday now. And if this is an emergency? Still tuesday, he’s busy now. At this point my problem-solving capacity has reached it’s limit and I think that I look so beaten at that very moment that the guy feels obliged to ask me what the problem is. I let the motorcycle do it's dzzzjunnggg and I look at him hopefully. He tries a few things playing with the choke, the gas and the start-button, he does a short inspection and then he points at something. I want to jump for joy and disappear in a hole in the ground at the same time. “Your petrol tap,” he says laconically while he turns the button a quarter, “was switched off”.
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